- The U.S. military launched major airstrikes on 85 targets in Iraq and Syria on Friday, in response to the January 28 deaths of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan
- US officials have warned that the attack on seven facilities across the two countries was just the beginning
- Officials in Syria and Iraq have reported that the strikes killed a total of 34 people
The US has warned that their 30 minute attack inside Iraq and Syria is just the beginning, after President Biden walked a fine line between all out war in the region with strikes on 85 targets in seven locations.
The Pentagon unleashed a volley of missiles on Iranian-backed militias on Friday night, with four facilities in Syria and three in Iraq being struck by B1 bombers.
Syria has warned that the strikes had ‘fueled the conflict in the Middle East in a very dangerous way’.
While the Iraqi government confirmed that the attacks killed 16 people, including civilians, and alleged the US government did not inform them of their plan to strike.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 18 people were killed in the strikes on Syria.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has suggest that this targeted retaliation was just the beginning.
President Biden echoed this sentiment, saying that the overnight strikes were only the beginning.
The Pentagon unleashed a volley of missiles on Iranian-backed militias on Friday night, with the ruins of a building in Iraq are seen here
A destroyed building is pictured at the site of a U.S. airstrike in al-Qaim, Iraq February 3, 2024
The strikes on Friday came in response to a deadly drone attack that killed three American soldiers last Sunday.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat and Iraq War Veteran, told CNN: ‘I think it is a real strong deterrence. We’re saying: Listen, we don’t want to go to war. But have a little taste of what we can do.
‘Here you go. Eighty-five targets. And I think that that is part of the balancing act that we need to be engaged in right now.’
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said the overnight operation was ‘another strategic mistake by the US government, which will have no result other than intensifying tension and instability.’
With tensions high in the face of the Israel-Hamas war, both Damascus and Baghdad joined Tehran in accusing Washington of undermining the stability of the region.
Hamas, whose unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel sparked the current spiral of violence in the region, accused Washington of pouring ‘oil on the fire’.
Relations between the US and Iraq have soured in recent months after Washington carried out previous air strikes against Iran-backed groups in Iraq in response to a flurry of attacks on US-led troops since the Gaza war began last October.
Footage shared on social media showed a series of explosions in the city of Al-Qaim: the first explosions from the U.S. bombs, and then the secondary explosions from the munitions detonating.
Explosions are seen in the Iraqi city of Al-Qaim: the site is believed to be a weapons depot for al Hashed al Shabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU)
A plane is seen taking off in a video on X shared by CENTCOM – U.S. Central Command
The mayor of Al-Qaim, Turki Al-Mahalawi, said the strikes hit three houses used as weapon warehouses by the PMU – al Hashed al Shabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
The PMU is backed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and is believed by Washington to be responsible for many of the 165 attacks launched since October 7 on U.S. sites and personnel in the region.
The United States has some 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq as part of an international coalition against the Islamic State group, a jihadist organisation that once controlled swathes of both countries.
Yahya Rasool, spokesperson of Iraq’s Armed Forces, said the strikes were a ‘violation of Iraqi sovereignty.’
‘The city of Al-Qaim and the Iraqi border areas are being subjected to airstrikes by U.S. aircraft, at a time when Iraq is striving hard to ensure the stability of the region,’ Rasool said, according to CNN.
‘These strikes are considered a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, posing a threat that could drag Iraq and the region into undesirable consequences, the outcomes will be dire for the security and stability in Iraq and the region.’
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said US warplanes struck ‘more than 85 targets at seven facilities utilised by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the militant groups that they sponsor’, three of them in Iraq and four in Syria.
In a statement, President Biden said: ‘Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing.’
Two B-1- bombers flew from the U.S. for the mission hitting seven facilities – three and Iraq and four in Syria – linked to the IRGC and Iran-backed militias
Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia (left) and Specialist Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, died in the drone strike of a US airbase in Jordan
Specialist Breonna Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia has been identified as one of the soldiers killed in the drone strike
Mick Mulroy, a former Pentagon official in the Trump administration, told The New York Times that the U.S. strikes appeared to be focused on Iranian supply lines, which pass through Iraq and Syria.
Mulroy said he believed it is unlikely many Iranian soldiers would have been killed because Iran had time to move its personnel out of harm’s way – likely a deliberate move by the U.S. to avoid unnecessary escalation.
The New York Times reported that a site in the Iraqi city of Akashat was also hit, describing the target as a command headquarters of the PMU.
The PMU is just part of a coalition of Iran-backed groups which call themselves the ‘Axis of Resistance’, and claim they are attacking U.S. targets in response to Washington’s support for Israel’s action in Gaza.
Analysts say Tehran is taking advantage of the chaos, and warn that the U.S. must tread a fine line between responding to the deaths of the three soldiers and plunging into war with Iran.
The bodies of three slain US soldiers were returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware
Sims said the U.S. was ‘really confident’ in the precision of its strikes, and said they had been a success.
He said: Initial indications are we hit exactly what we meant to hit, with a number of secondary explosions associated with the ammunition and logistics locations. We know that there are militants that use these locations.
‘We made these strikes tonight with an idea that there would likely be casualties associated with people inside those facilities.’
Senator Jack Reed, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he endorsed the strikes.
‘This was a strong, proportional response,’ said Reed, a Democrat representing Rhode Island.
‘In fact, the 85 targets struck tonight mark a greater number than the prior administration. Iran’s proxy forces in Syria and Iraq have been dealt a significant blow, and Iranian-linked militias around the Middle East should understand that they, too, will be held accountable.’